On Thursday, when I arrived at Kensington Oval, the England team were already on the field doing their warm-ups. The English fans, piled in in their large numbers from just as early, had already draped their club flags on practically every available wall space. The West Indies, the home team, came out quite a bit later to go through their routines.
Many people pay scant attention to these seemingly minor details but I notice these things. I think they tell us something about what happens when the umpire eventually says ‘Play’.
Say what you like, it’s heartening to see the evidence of love and support for Test cricket. The purest form of the game will live on most certainly. But at Kensington yesterday—in fact, throughout the tour so far—the evidence of love and support has come mostly from the visitors, thousands of them.
And it did not go unrewarded yesterday.
With Root’s team resuming on their overnight score of 244 for 3, Ben Stokes joined his captain at the crease for the first ball. He soon showed that he was in no mood to joke around. After a few overs of settling-in time, he took the bowling by the scruff of the neck and absolutely massacred the WI attack.
He was at his most savage when facing Veerasammy Permaul and Alzarri Joseph. Root didn’t just stand idly by looking on. He too kept it ticking along. In very quick time on both sides of lunch, the pair added 129 runs to the England total,
Stokes started with a savage drive through the covers off Kemar Roach, just to get his eye in. Then after facing only 128 balls, he was out with his score on 120, attempting to add another one to his six sixes—he also hit 11 fours.
One of the six sixes looked like it was heading towards Barbadian Prime Minister, the Honourable Mia Mottley, who was seated in the third tier of the Worrell, Weekes and Walcott Pavilion. In actuality, that particular six, which came off Permaul, was a massive hit that lost the ball on top of the pavilion. To tell the truth, it looked for a moment like if it would need a passport, as it seemed destined to leave Barbados altogether!
Root too pressed on, taking his overnight 119 to 153 glorious runs, his 12th Test score in excess of 150, containing 14 fours and coming off 316 deliveries.
Jonny Bairstow stuck around for a patient 20, then Chris Woakes (41) and Ben Foakes (33) just piled it on, allowing England to eventually declare on 507 for 9.
WI opener John Campbell’s initial response to that massive England total was to smash debutant Matt Fisher’s first ball in Test cricket past point for four.
The very next ball, he touched an outswinger that bounced appreciably and caught the edge of his dangling bat on its way through to wicketkeeper Foakes.
What a way to mark your entry into the Test arena.
I thought that the WI batsmen looked positive enough at the start of their chase, despite the uphill battle before them. Skipper Brathwaite is still there on 28 while Brooks, on 31, has a few more. The 71 for 1 they reached by the close was still more than 400 runs adrift of their 500-plus target, which it will take some doing to reach.
The forecast indicates that there might be a few showers. As a West Indian fan, I know how I feel about that. As a paying fan actually in the stands, I am more than a little conflicted.
But let us look forward to another exciting day of cricket and pray that, when it is over, the numbers are not quite so one-sided.